Here’s how to make the most of—and enjoy—your table for one this holiday.

By Karla Walsh
November 23, 2020
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While “me time” can be a welcome respite from the hectic pace, roommate drama and, lately, the germs of the world, it can get a little lonely at times. Especially if you're accustomed to spending the holidays with friends and family at special events.

“Fortunately, there is much to be grateful for even if you’re marking it at home with yourself,” explains Tracy Thomas, Ph.D., psychologist and founder of Dr. Tracy Inc., an emotional training company in California. “As an emotional scientist who helps people build the emotional strength they need to succeed, one of the most important shifts a person can make is to deepen self-connection. This opens up the ability to experience everything more deeply, peacefully and enjoyably—regardless of external circumstances.”

Credit: Westend61/Getty Images

7 Tips for Those Celebrating Thanksgiving Alone

So rather than thinking of your table for one as a sad affair, here’s how to enjoy a solo Thanksgiving.

1. Start the Day by Jotting Down a Gratitude List

“As Thanksgiving approaches, it's important to develop a sense of gratitude, especially given the tumultuous and chaotic year that we’ve all been experiencing. It’s been full of dramatic and traumatic changes, losses, complexities, pain and confusion for many, and the potential for the most emotionally-unstable holiday season is real,” Thomas says, especially for those who might be celebrating alone for the first time. 

So to find the bright spots amidst the chaos, open up your Notes app or pull out a journal and write down five things you’re grateful for. Numerous studies have proven that those who make a concerted effort to count their blessings (the rationale behind Thanksgiving, after all) are less likely to be depressed and more likely to lead happier lives.

2. Use Social Media Intentionally

Do you tend to experience FOMO or feel bummed out by seeing others celebrating when you’re solo? If so, keep your phone in a drawer and stop scrolling through updates from friends and family. 

If you do find joy in connecting and communicating online, feel free to log on. Just keep this advice from Thomas in mind:

“Whatever you do with social media, it’s important to recognize what your intentions are and make sure you’re acting with intention, so you actually achieve what you’re wanting, rather than just cycling into lower emotional states that can make you feel worse. Using these tools to fulfill intentions,”  she says, like texting friends and family or sharing photos of what you’re grateful for on Instagram stories rather than using them as a tool to see what you’re potentially missing out on.

3. Partake in a Virtual Holiday

A virtual gathering is the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving with others this year, the CDC says, so set a time, pick a platform (Zoom is free all Thanksgiving day with no time limits), and get a calendar event in the books with friends or family. Cook together, virtually, and dig into a Thanksgiving recipe you’ve shared together in the past. Here are five tips to host a stress-free and fun virtual Thanksgiving.

4. Do Something to Treat Yourself

Those who engage in more self-care experience lower levels of stress and higher quality of life, according to a study in the journal BMC Medical Education.

Self-care doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all definition. Instead, it’s personal and should be aligned with what makes you less anxious and depressed. This can be as little as slipping on your softest socks, lighting a favorite candle, or playing a nostalgic playlist—or as big as planning a vacation to book down the road or opening up a fancy bottle of wine you’ve been saving.

5. Order Takeout, If You Like

Supporting small businesses is more important than ever in 2020. If you have a local gem that you love, go ahead and skip the homemade Thanksgiving menu and outsource the cooking this year. Whether it’s a traditional Thanksgiving, pizza delivery, or Indian cuisine via curbside carryout, you make the rules, so choose whatever feeds your soul.

Credit: Andy Lyons

6. Try This Single-Serving Thanksgiving Menu

If you’re in the mood for something more like mom or grandma made, Colleen Weeden of the Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen suggests roasting a cornish game hen. “They’re perfect for a single. Season as you like, then roast at 375° F for 1 ½ hours,” she says.

For the sides, try “baking” a single sweet potato in the microwave until tender, then garnish with…

  • Sweet: Mascarpone cheese and a drizzle of maple syrup
  • Savory: Butter, salt and pepper

Buy a canister or box of stuffing mix and follow instructions to make a serving for one, and “make a full or half batch of cranberry sauce,” Weeden advises. “Don’t worry if it’s too much. Then you can use it to spread on sandwiches, toast, pancakes, French toast, or use as a sundae topping.”

“My family loves corn casserole, so you could cook an ear of corn and riff on street corn,” Weeden says. Simply slice off the kernels and garnish them with Elote Corn Topper.

“For dessert, purchase mini graham shells (like these Keebler Ready Graham Pie Crusts, $3 for six, Target) and fill with lemon curd or your favorite pudding, then top with a squirt of whipped topping and add a fun sprinkle of mini chips or multi-colored sprinkles,” Weeden says.

7. Don’t Forget to Capture the Moment

It’s possible we’ll never experience another Thanksgiving quite like this one in our lifetimes. So, “be sure to take a photo of the whole meal,” Weeden suggests, and take videos or photos to capture any moments of the day you might want to reflect upon later. 

“Check in with yourself as often as you check your phone so you keep building connection to yourself instead of continually disconnecting from painful and stressful emotions and thoughts,” Thomas says. 

Feel what you need to feel, even if that’s not positive. It’s OK to be bummed too. So cry, vent, exercise, let it out—then open up that self-care toolbox again.

Just remember: "You’re a powerful creator of all of your experiences no matter what you choose to focus on; choose your focus in every moment so you can create the best Thanksgiving possible this year,” Thomas says.

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